Some Villagers have lost count of how many puzzles they’ve completed in recent months.
With a service like Puzzles on Wheels trading completed puzzles for new ones, it’s no surprise that puzzling has kept so many people busy.
In the nine weeks since Joyce Lundeen began her puzzle-trading program, 65 households have joined the fun.
“I knew there were people out there searching for puzzles,” said Lundeen, of the Village of Pennecamp, “and I thought, ‘What the heck, let’s do it.’”
Lundeen said she has done many more puzzles than usual since COVID-19 began affecting Florida in March.
“When I got to The Villages, I started managing the puzzles at Lake Miona Recreation Center,” Lundeen said. “Then they closed it all because of the coronavirus, and I waited it out thinking it would be only a short time. When it looked like it wasn’t coming back for a while, I started Puzzles on Wheels.”
Lundeen said her interest in puzzles began back in Minnesota, where many people she knew participated in puzzle competitions.
At the beginning of May, Lundeen began “bringing the puzzles to the people.”
Every Sunday at 1 p.m., Lundeen sends an email to everybody on her list that shows all the available puzzles for the week, with somewhere between 90-100 to choose from, and then those in the program respond with which ones they would like.
“Since it’s first-come, first-served, around 1 o’clock the emails come pouring back very quickly,” Lundeen said. “The first time you request a puzzle, you do not have to have anything to exchange. After that, the max you can have of our puzzles is two, so when you ask for more puzzles, you put the ones you want to give back outside for us to pick up.”
Between 1-5 p.m. Tuesdays, the puzzles are delivered by either Lundeen or one of her two volunteers, Peggy Davidse, of the Village of Winifred, and Judie Hetsler, of the Village of Duval.
Lundeen said someone from most Villages is now involved in Puzzles on Wheels.
“The response from the people is amazing,” she said. “There’s all kinds of nice comments, such as ‘You saved me during this time,’ and ‘Thanks for doing this.’ Some people include cards when they’re returning puzzles. It’s definitely been worth doing.”
Lee Ferrette, of the Village of Virginia Trace, is one of these puzzle recipients.
“We’ve been doing (puzzles) for a long time,” Ferrette said. “My husband has Alzheimer’s, and there isn’t much we can do right now, so we do a lot of puzzles.”
Ferrette said her family had sent her puzzles for a while, but they quickly ran out of new ones to do and weren’t able to find replacements online after puzzling evidently increased in popularity during quarantine. Then, she saw Lundeen’s puzzle program online.
“We were going crazy,” she said. “I thought I’d send her an email, and she appeared at my door. I gave her a bunch of puzzles that I’ve already done, and she signed me up on her list.”
Ferrette said she admired Lundeen’s organization of her services.
“She’s very, very thorough,” she said. “You pick which one you want and she brings it to you on Tuesday — like magic.”
Without being able to do much else outside their house, Ferrette said she and her husband were happy to have something new to do within their own walls.
“We take walks and do puzzles,” Ferrette said. “There isn’t too much we can do. She’s providing an amazing service for people like us who are house-bound and can’t do anything.”
People interested in joining the Puzzles on Wheels program as volunteers or puzzle recipients can find out more by contacting Lundeen at 407-312-5770 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Staff writer Alexandria Mansfield can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5401, or email@example.com.